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Collection > Ger van Elk >

The Discovery of the Sardines, Newhall, California


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  • Medium


  • Dimensions

    Image (each): 22 3/8 × 25 5/8 in. (56.83 × 65.09 cm)

  • Credit

    The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
    Gift of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson

  • Accession number


  • Object label

    ​Ger van Elk’s The Discovery of the Sardines, Newhall, California has the air of a scene from a B movie in which the first sign of sardines emerging from a crack in a Los Angeles County road portends a plague of fish roiling just under the surface of the earth. Van Elk plays with photography’s basic claims to truth-telling; this photograph is an unmanipulated, realistic recording, but van Elk himself inserted the sardines in the earthquake-caused fissure. Near Newhall is Placerita Canyon, the site of the first discovery of gold in California, in 1842. It was subsequently home to several major outdoor television and movie filming locations, called “movie ranches.” This diptych shows that, in photography, film, and representation generally, truth and fiction are not mutually exclusive.